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Small Business of the Year finalist ...

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by Karen E. Culp

SBJ Staff

Butler, Rosenbury & Partners is more than just a group of architects and engineers. The company, founded in 1978 by Geoffrey Butler, is focused on project management.

"We assume the risk for our clients. We control the cost for them and control the time it takes to complete a project. We can manage a project from start to finish," Butler said.

Butler, the son of a Springfield architect, returned to his hometown from Lawrence, Kan., in 1978.

"I interviewed around and couldn't get work, so I decided to open my own office," Butler said.

The firm became the first architectural company in Springfield to have a computer and later installed its first computer-aided design (CAD) machine in 1984. Tim Rosenbury joined the company in 1984, becoming a partner in 1986, and partners have continued to accrue, making the company seven partners strong now.

Bill Bergmann and Douglas Jackson became partners in 1990, while Bruce Adibyazdi, Mike Harned and David Hess became partners in 1997.

For the past few years, the company has concentrated both on increasing its staff and clients, and on becoming more efficient, Butler said. Simple adjustments like making each individual responsible for his or her correspondence and written materials has made the office run more efficiently.

"We don't have individual secretaries. If you need a letter written, you write it yourself. That is just one of the measures that has made us a lean and mean operation," Butler said.

In 1987, Bill Bergmann, a structural engineer, joined the company. The addition of a structural engineer enhanced the company's service to its clients, Butler said.

"It gives us the ability to work front through back. It helps us analyze the most cost-effective way to develop a plan," Butler said.

Though the firm's focus has always been on project management, it is now becoming more focused on planning. This year, the firm hired David Knight as a planner. Knight had formerly worked as economic development coordinator for the city of Springfield.

"A lot of times, what we do doesn't entail building anything. We may work to help clients make the best use of the space they've got. We focus on solving problems for our clients," Butler said.

Jackson said the firm's involvement can last from the project's inception until the space is occupied, or even beyond that.

"We may help a client get elevator service or janitorial service. Our problem-solving isn't just limited to the building process," Jackson said.

From its beginnings with Butler as its sole employee, the firm has grown to 41 employees strong. Butler said he adds employees as he finds bright people.

"We've made it our policy to hire the most intelligent people we find. The work will be there once we bring someone on board. If we find someone who's just doggone bright, then we want them to bring that intelligence our way," Butler said.

Getting the most intelligent employees often starts with getting the most intelligent interns. Internships in the architecture business are paid, three-year-long learning periods after which the individual takes the architect licensing exam.

Butler, Rosenbury & Partners has had good success with its interns' passing the test; the company also likes to keep those successful interns in the firm.

"We train people to do things our way, and our way is very unique. Not everyone does things quite the way we do," Butler said.

"We do give a lot of opportunity as far as learning. In three years here, an intern takes on a variety of projects," Jackson said.

Butler, Rosenbury & Partners aims to become part of its clients' roster of professionals.

"We want to be put on your staff like a doctor, accountant or tax attorney. If anything comes up with your physical plant, we want you to call us, so we can start working on what to do," Butler said.

The firm received its first design award for its work on the Galleria Shopping Center, one of its first projects; it has now received more than 20 awards.

The Boone County Courthouse that the company designed has not only been recognized by local architect groups, but has received national awards for its design.

The company's work in Columbia will be featured in the American Institute of Architects Committee on Architecture for Justice's "Justice Facility Review 1998-1999."

"We don't set out to get awards, but each one we do receive is significant to us," Jackson said.

The Boone County project makes them proud, the partners say, because it was a tough one, and they rose to the challenge.

"We were the smallest firm bidding on the project; we had only one courthouse to our credit, and the project had a tight budget and a tight time line. That we were able to go as far as we did with it makes us real proud," Butler said.

Now is a great time to be a part of the small-business community in Springfield, the partners agreed, and especially to be in the business they're in.

"Over the 20 years we've been in business in Springfield, a lot has changed. The town has gone from being a somewhat closed community to one that is on the brink of being a metropolitan area. We've seen a lot of young, aggressive entrepreneurs like Johnny Morris and Jack Stack come in with a dream and the ability to implement that dream.

"Springfield has enjoyed a steady growth and a diversified economic base, and that, along with a very active chamber of commerce has resulted in a positive, controlled growth," Butler said.

As far as Butler, Rosenbury & Partners' growth is concerned, the firm continues to get new projects and will probably continue to add staff members. "At one point, we thought 30 employees would be our goal; now we've hit 40 and we're not stopping," Jackson said.

The firm has had a number of repeat, clients such as John Q. Hammons Hotels and Bass Pro Shops. It has also been involved in some of the city's largest projects, including the First Card call center, which opened in January.

PHOTO CAPTION:

Butler, Rosenbury is comprised of seven partners: (left to right, front row) Tim Rosenbury, David Hess, Doug Jackson, (back row) Michael Harned, Bill Bergmann, Geoffrey Butler and Bruce Abidyazdi.[[In-content Ad]]

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